All civilizations start from a major source of influence. It has been seen in the past that a key force in the foundation of most civilizations has been religion. Religion can give unity, political and economic stability, and a cause for people to stay together. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam were important in the foundation of the civilizations in Western Europe during the Middle Ages, the Arabian civilization, the Byzantine Empire and the Middle East during the Judaic empire.
The Arabian empire was one of the major civilizations influenced by religious powers. The Arabian Peninsula was a very peculiar place for the origins of an empire. The place was composed of many harsh deserts forcing the people to live a nomadic lifestyle.(Stearns p. 122) The Arabian people lived in kin-related clan groups. Clans often had interclan wars for little things such as stealing water or trespassing on a clan’s area.(Stearns pp. 123-124) This probably resulted from the lack of resources because of the horrible conditions of the Arabian peninsula. This constant fighting weakened them greatly and they were able to be easily manipulated by other kingdoms. The Arabs needed something to unite their clans and stand up to the other nations. They got this unification when the Islam religion was founded. The founder of the Islam religion is Muhammad. He was a merchant and through his travels, he experienced many religions. Most of the clans were polytheistic he saw monotheistic beliefs such as Christianity and Judaism. Muhammad was dissatisfied with his life and spent more time on meditation. Then in 610 C.E., he received revelations from Allah(God) through the angel Gabriel.(Stearns p. 128) He then put these teachings into a book called the Qur’an; the Islam book of faith.(Stearns p. 128) This religion emphasized unity in its teachings. It said that there was one God, Allah and that Muhammad was his prophet.(Stearns p. 121) This emphasis on unity brought the Arab tribes together to form an empire. This united Arab empire now went to stand up to the other kingdoms that once manipulated and belittled them. Around 640 C.E., they conquered Jerusalem from the Byzantine Empire and part of the Persian empire.(Carnagie ?11) They expand more through the additions of the Mediterranean islands and Sicily. The Islam faith was very practical for the conquered people. This is true because, “Islam had no priesthood, and membership was open to anyone who would recite the Shahada in front of witnesses.”(Carnagie ?17) The Shahada is the statement that there is one God, Allah and Muhammad is his prophet. Since the conversion to the Islamic faith is very quick, it helped expand the Arabian empire. The Arabs where just a nomadic group before the Islamic faith. After it, they became a thriving civilization showing that the Islamic faith was a major influence on the Arabian civilization.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Middle Ages began and became heavily induced with religious teachings. In the Middle Ages, there was a loss of knowledge in aspects such as reading, writing, and irrigation techniques. Western Europe fell into a very apocalyptic state and needed something to guide the people. The Catholic Church decided to step into this role and help the people of Western Europe. One way they assisted was in preserving books. The Church had monasteries that were dedicated to the copying of books which preserved information when ordinary people didn’t know how to read or write. (Pendergast ?6) This action maintained some of the knowledge from the past that would have otherwise been lost. They also helped rule kingdoms by collecting taxes.(Pendergast ?6) The Catholic Church had to deal with these economic and political problems, along with spiritual problems because rule and order broke down when the Roman Empire fell. The Church had a structure where the pope was the head of everything, then there were bishops who controlled over regional areas, and finally, priests that controlled local areas. One of the jobs of the pope was to defend against heresies because they threatened the religious unity of Western Europe.(Stearns p. 223) Catholicism was the religious belief of Western Europe. Since the Catholic Church also headed political matters, any heresy could start a revolution against the Church and put Western Europe into another apocalyptic state. The Catholic Church was so influential that the pope was seen as a supreme ruler. “Gregory and several later popes made clear their beliefs that the church not only was to be free from state interference but was superior to the state in its function as a direct channel of God’s word.”(Stearns p. 223) This says that the Church was superior to any other rulers, showing that was very influential in Western Europe life during the Middle Ages. This is another major civilization that has been under the influence of religion.
The Judaic empire in the Middle East was also influenced by a religion.